Last March, when the COVID-19 pandemic interrupted my travels and threw a wrench into my general life plans, I took a couple of months of break from work to recollect and work on my own projects full-time. Many of the projects I ended up building were about growing a personal universe of tools that augmented my workflows, the way I wanted my thoughts and ideas to flow around me. I learned that I enjoyed building tools at many different levels, from thinking about how we should design better creative instruments for thinking to the actual craft of writing software to grow into my intellectual Iron Man suit.
That summer, I briefly joined Ideaflow to work with a team that shared my taste in building tools. I worked on a project to overlay a graph of notes on top of your web-browsing experience, so you could, for example, be reading a blog post about ray-tracing algorithms, and have this tool find your previous notes about “path tracing” and annotate your notes on top of the blog you’re reading. Or perhaps you’re reading an email that mentions a company, and this tool can helpfully highlight that you’ve taken notes on a conversation you had with someone else who works there.
As a conceptual experiment and working prototype, this project inspired lots of ideas about the gap between “productivity tools” as we know them today, and the cohesive universe of tools we can build around our lives to help us learn and think better. In many ways, this is a quest I’ve personally pursued for a while with my own side projects.
Starting in February, I’m excited to say I’ll continue that exploration working full-time as a part of the core Ideaflow team. Ideaflow describes itself in many ways, not lacking in buzzwords, from collective intelligence to “second brain” to whatever catchphrase the productivity-tools corner of the Internet comes up with next. For me, our vision is straightforward. Ideaflow is building the best tool for making the most of our ideas, by helping you capture more, find missed connections, and think together.
Most people have both a “Collector” and a “Librarian” inside them when they keep track of their ideas. The Collector wants to capture every idea you get, from shower thoughts to ideas that hit you on a long drive home. If you capture all your disparate ideas, maybe they’ll add up to something. The Librarian inside you wants to grow an organized, structured, clean library of ideas you can understand and browse. If you know how to find any idea you keep, you’ll be able to make the most of it when you need it.
Often, these two needs are in conflict. It’s difficult to organize every idea you capture, because most ideas don’t start out with a solid form. The result is that you might let most of your ideas slip away in the moment, or you might end up with pages and pages of notes of ideas that you’ve captured and are afraid to throw away, but you can’t make sense of, much less learn from.
One of the core beliefs of Ideaflow is that we don’t have to compromise by either capturing without organizing, or organizing without capturing. We can capture more and organize better at the same time. So we’re starting out with a tool focused on those two core jobs we have: capturing ideas in the moment, and making sense of them as you grow your web of ideas.
We’re currently working on a closed beta. With more I’m looking forward to sharing in the coming weeks and months as I dive deeper into this problem.
Until then, keep your ideas flowing.
← Creative shadow-casting
"Write short sentences" is bad advice →
I share new posts on my newsletter. If you liked this one, you should consider joining the list.
Have a comment or response? You can email me.